A Deep, Sweet Hurt
By Justina Elias
Each is flanked by dozens of wingmen: burly security guys scanning the crowd, cameramen ducking and darting, and a few insiders whose ministrations (mouthguard, water, hug) seem choreographed, swift and seamless. The cage, a gleaming black octagon, looms. One fighter drops to her knees and crosses herself before entering; the other, a permanent sneer on her face, just cracks her knuckles mid-stride.
This is where things get less familiar. On tonight’s ticket are Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Carla Esparza, strawweights (115 pounds) known, respectively, for striking and grappling prowess. Female Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters have been around since the nineties, but there’s still a thrill in witnessing such unbridled toughness in women. These two are fairly stoic—no strutting or fanged mouth guards à la Amanda “the Lioness” Nunes—but their relative calm only belies a deeper danger. And yet, mouths stuffed with hardware, ribbons in their cornrows, wiry limbs jutting out of board shorts and oversized T-shirts, there is something middle-schoolish about them, a certain uneasy hunger. They eye each other with taut resolve, the world’s most devoted bullies.
About the Author
Justina Elias holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph. She has been shortlisted for contests with Narrative and Room, and was longlisted for the CBC 2018 Short Story Prize. She works as a bookseller in Victoria, BC.
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